On Wednesday of last week, Prof. Dr. Erich R. Reinhardt, President and CEO of Siemens Medical Solutions (NYSE: SI), traveled from Germany to the United States to deliver an address on how Siemens expects to integrate in vivo (imaging) diagnostics, in vitro diagnostics (IVD), and informatics to create new value streams in healthcare. This is a topic of high interest within the laboratory community, ever since Siemens spent billions to buy a major presence in the lab testing marketplace last year with its acquisitions of DPC and Bayer Diagnostics.
Reinhardt was at the headquarters of Siemens Medical Solutions Diagnostics in Tarrytown, New York, to speak to a group of healthcare journalists from Europe and the United States. After Reinhardt’s address, Siemens Medical Solutions Diagnostics CEO, Tony Bihl gave a presentation that was followed by a panel of three outside experts, including Dark Daily Editor Robert L. Michel, Richard G. Friedberg, M.D., Ph.D., Chairman of Pathology at Bay State Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts, and Paul R. Billings, M.D., Ph.D., Vice President and Senior Geneticist, Strategic Planning at Laboratory Corporation of America.
Reinhardt’s message was clear and consistent with earlier pronouncements on this topic by senior Siemens executives. “New technologies in both imaging and in vitro diagnostics provide useful clinical knowledge for physicians,” he said. “This allows clinicians to diagnose disease earlier and with more precision. At the same time, these technologies generate increasing quantities of data. That creates the opportunity to use information technology in several ways to further increase value and enhance work flow.”
One application of information technology is to better analyze the primary data generated by an imaging procedure or a molecular laboratory test. “Smart software can analyze the ever-growing quantities of raw data and increase the sensitivity and precision of the clinical diagnosis,” explained Reinhardt. “The second, and equally valuable, contribution of information technology is to streamline clinical and operational processes in the healthcare continuum.”
Two products form the cornerstone of Siemens’ informatics strategy: Soarian and syngo. Reinhardt discussed how these software systems can be used by hospitals and healthcare providers to manage clinical work flow and operational workflow. Reinhardt noted that there are 50 such Sorian “integrated work flow solutions” in active use at 18 locations worldwide. He specifically mentioned Chester County Hospital of West Chester, Pennsylvania, which was so effective using this approach to redesign work flow that it won the “2006 North American Global Excellence Business Process Management (BPM) and Workflow Award” from the Workflow And Reengineering International Association (WARIA). One laboratory-related success at Chester Hospital was improvements in infection control that lead to a reduction in cost per case of $7,000.
One major insight from the presentations by Reinhardt and Bihl is that Siemens does not, at least in the short term, predict that some type of spectacular breakthrough or market-shaking innovation will result from its efforts to integrate imaging, in vitro diagnostics, and informatics. Rather, Siemens Medical Solutions is taking deliberate steps to integrate these three different technology areas to achieve two primary objectives. First, to improve clinical outcomes by enhancing the knowledge and clinical efficiency that these technologies deliver to physicians. Second, to contribute to efficiencies in operational work flow.
However, there could be a wild card to this effort. Siemens is the first major player in imaging to acquire and operate a major IVD manufacturing business. As Siemens’ researchers, engineers, and scientists involved in imaging and IVD manufacturing now start to meet regularly and look for specific opportunities to combine and integrate molecular technologies in imaging and laboratory testing, there is a strong possibility that these teams will find new and useful molecular markers that can be utilized by in vivo and in vitro procedures in complementary ways.
Dark Daily will be tracking these developments. Currently Siemens has a head start in the IVD manufacturing business over its major competitor. But when General Electric (NYSE: GE) becomes the owner of Abbott Diagnostics later this year, that will certainly intensify competition between these two healthcare corporations.
Prof. Dr. Erich Reinhardt